Formosa may find enough propylene for PP plant

Source: ICIS News

2015/09/04

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Formosa Petrochemical may be able to source enough propylene in Louisiana for its proposed polypropylene (PP) plant, consultants said.

Earlier this week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced that Formosa is studying the feasibility of building a PP plant, along with an ethane cracker and polyethylene (PE) and ethylene glycol (EG) units.

Jindal's announcement did not mention a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) or any other source of the propylene that would be needed by the proposed PP plant.

However, Louisiana is chronically long on propylene, said Dan Lippe, president of Petral Consulting. As such, "a PP plant in Louisiana is a good idea", he said.

If Formosa builds the PP plant, it would join three others in Louisiana, which are owned by ExxonMobil, LyondellBasell and Pinnacle Polymers. The capacity of the three is 1.29m tonnes/year, according to ICIS plants and projects.

This is well exceeded by the supply of propylene in Louisiana. The state's refineries and crackers can produce 4.09m tonnes/year of the monomer.

This oversupply of propylene is balanced out through a system of pipelines owned by Enterprise Products. These ship propylene as well as natural gas liquids (NGLs) between Louisiana and Texas.

Within this system, the Sabine pipeline ships polymer grade propylene (PGP) from Port Arthur, Texas, to a delivery point in Cameron parish, Louisiana.

In addition, the bidirectional Lou-Tex Propylene pipeline connects Sorrento, Louisiana, to Mont Belvieu, Texas. Enterprise is converting the Lou-Tex from chemical-grade propylene (CGP) to polymer-grade-propylene (PGP) service, a project it should complete by 2020.

"Enterprise takes refinery grade propylene from Louisiana refineries and transports it over to Mont Belvieu via their Lou-Tex NGL pipeline," said Peter Fasullo, principal at En*Vantage. “It is possible that Enterprise’s Lou-Tex Propylene line, which will be converted from chem-grade to polymer grade will transport polymer grade to Louisiana that could support Formosa’s PP plant.”

As it stands, propylene production capacity in Texas will rise when Dow Chemical starts up a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit later this year. The plant, in Freeport, Texas, will have a capacity of 750,000 tonnes/year.

In the second half of 2016, Enterprise Products plans to start up its own 750,000 tonne/year PDH plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas.

In 2017, Formosa Plastics, a sister company of Formosa Petrochemical, plans to start up a 725,000 ton/year (658,000 tonne/year) plant in Point Comfort, Texas.

In addition to a PDH plant, Formosa Plastics is also building a PP plant, as well as a cracker, a PE and an EG plant at Point Comfort.

Focus article by Al Greenwood